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Thursday, July 2, 2015

Court Upholds Police Officer Termination for Non-Residency

A Maywood ordinance requires Village employees, including police officers to reside in the Village or within 15 miles of the Village's corporate boundaries. The Village filed disciplinary charges against a police officer when it learned that the officer lived in St. Charles, about 30 miles from the Village. At his disciplinary hearing, the officer testified that he had multiple residences, including a condominium in Chicago (within the 15 mile requirement) and the St. Charles home. He testified that the condominium was owned by his brother, and he paid $450 each month to rent a room and closet. However, he admitted that had no lease, rental agreement, or cancelled checks to prove that he actually resided in the condominium. He also admitted that his wife and children live in the St. Charles home, and that the family is intact. At the end of the hearing, the board voted to terminate his employment, and he appealed to the circuit court.

The circuit court upheld the board's findings that the officer violated the residency requirement but vacated the board's termination, and remanded the case back to the board to impose a lesser penalty. On appeal, the appellate court reviewed the Village's residency ordinance and analyzed various cases establishing standards for "residency."

First, the appellate court determined that the board was correct in determining that the officer violated the Village's residency requirement. The evidence produced during the hearing established that his actual residence was in St. Charles, and not in Chicago as the officer argued.

Second, the appellate court rejected the circuit court's decision to overturn the officer's termination. The court found that the officer had engaged in an ongoing violation of the residency ordinance for two years, and had been untruthful to the Village regarding his residency. In short, the court held that the board's decision to terminate was not unreasonable.  Wheeler v. Board of Fire and Police Commissioners of Maywood, 2015 IL App (1st) 140453-U


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